Tulsi Gabbard could go by the title of congresswoman or Major, but her unique appeal has afforded her first name recognition. She has become the youngest Hawaii state legislator in history, an Iraq War veteran, an officer in the Hawaii Army National Guard, the first Samoan-American and the first practicing Hindu elected to United States Congress, and even Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee. The diversity of her background in public service is hardly rivaled, and despite being the ultimate diversity candidate and a representative voice of both the most progressive and the most conservative of Democrats, she is now being almost completely ignored by the media.
Though Tulsi has found increasing popularity between a curious blend of moderate and progressive Democrats, her popularity extends to independent-minded voters, including many libertarians whose interest has been piqued by her staunch anti-interventionist policies and open criticism of 21st century American imperialism.
Every election is described by someone somewhere as “the most important election of our lives,” but 2020 is likely to fit this bill for many of us. In very rare form, Gabbard’s policies are almost complete opposites of the Trump administration, with a few exceptions (such as the minimum wage; a policy both Trump and Gabbard have expressed interest in increasing). With Trump recognized as a contemporary representative of all things “America First,” Gabbard stands a chance of presenting a new agenda that robs Trump of this appeal.
Who Is Tulsi Gabbard?
To understand the appeal of Tulsi Gabbard, it is important to know who she is. In the interest of brevity, we will focus on significant career highlights.
Having entered the political world at the age of 21, Tulsi has a political career spanning only a little over 1.5 decades and a military career spanning nearly the same length. Her career eventually saw her become the first Samoan-American, as well as the first practicing Hindu, to be elected to Congress in the United States.
Tulsi was first elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives in 2002, defeating 3 Democrat challengers in her primary and going on to defeat her Republican opponent in a landslide victory. After serving only one term, Tulsi declined to campaign for reelection, having volunteered to deploy with the Hawaii Army National Guard to Iraq in a field medical unit.
Her experience in Middle Eastern warzones was not exclusive to her 2004 Iraq deployment; she was deployed to Kuwait in 2008. And it was upon returning from Kuwait that she achieved her second political victory after running for a position on the Honolulu City Council, where she became notable for working to liberalize parking restrictions – a move known to greatly reduce restrictions to street vendors in the city.
Sworn in on the Bhagavad Gita, Tulsi entered Congress in 2012. She has been re-elected every two years since then.
The Democratic National Committee
“As a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, I’m required to remain neutral in Democratic primaries, but I cannot remain neutral any longer.”
Citing “firsthand the true cost of war,” Tulsi made national news in 2016 by refusing to remain silent as the Clinton-infused DNC rigged their own electoral process in favor of candidate Hillary Clinton. Making an extremely unpopular move within the Democratic Party leadership, Gabbard became the fourth member of Congress to endorse famed anti-establishmentarian and self-described Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders.
And she stepped down from her party leadership position to do so. For those somewhat out of the loop, it was this move that first endeared Gabbard to the majority of her current support base.
Libertarians Take An Interest
Though Gabbard is outspoken in the areas of climate change and criminal justice reform, the issue closest to her heart is war, and much of her life has been invested in becoming acquainted with it. Her 2004 tour of duty in Iraq spanned 12 months, and again in Kuwait in 2008.
Tulsi is a true critic of the American political consensus on foreign policy, and has not wasted her hard-earned experience by remaining silent. She speaks out, quite frequently, about the terrors of regime change and the horror of international conflict, and though it would be politically advantageous to align more closely with the DNC on these issue, Gabbard is willing to brutally criticize even the most sacred of her fellow Democrats to shine a spotlight on the hypocrisy.
Less than a year ago, Tulsi spoke on the Congressional Floor about the National Defense Authorization Act, urging support for an amendment that would revoke the ability of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State to take military action against Iran without the approval of Congress.
“It sidelines Congress and the American people entirely, with the only requirement being that the Administration report to Congress after their plan is being implemented, and only for the next 4 years, while the authorization for war has no expiration date.”
In typical Tulsi fashion, Gabbard went on to remind the House of Representatives how this power is already being used.
“It gives after-the-fact license for what is already happening in the Middle East. Since 2015, without express Congressional authorization, U.S. troops have been providing direct military support to Saudi Arabia in Yemen through information sharing, logistical support, and refueling Saudi war-planes which have dropped U.S.-made bombs on Yemeni civilians.”
This is not to say that Tulsi is the perfect anti-interventionist candidate. Such a candidate does not exist. But as far as establishment politics may be concerned, Tulsi Gabbard is dangerous, unhinged, and guilty of committing one of the most heinous crimes in Democratic Party politics – criticizing Barack Obama. She is a repeat offender.
Though Tulsi is certainly no rhetorical Trump, her interest in decorum does not include any noticeable regard for political correctness, and this is an internal value of importance to conservatives and moderates, but definitely among libertarians who often regard political correctness as a silencer screwed to the barrel of reality. Tulsi actually stood with Republicans in demanding that Barack Obama not soften any blows when referencing “radical Islam,” a two-word phrase that Obama refused to utter.
In 2012, Obama had endorsed Tulsi. The following year, she courteously objected to Obama’s proposed budget cutting social security without cutting the missile defense budget; a spending arena she identified as bloated. By 2015, Tulsi was demanding executive comprehension of the radical islamist elements that she had seen up close twice, and calling for a complete reversal of Barack Obama’s foreign policy decisions. By 2017, now in the era of Trump, Tulsi had partnered with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to bring forward the Stop Arming Terrorists Act, for which she acted as the sponsor.
2018 was the ‘Year of The Russians’ according to mainstream media narratives. And Tulsi’s reputation is being preemptively tied to Russia; a strategy proven to be of great political hindrance as seen for nearly two years at the Trump White House. NBC News, for instance, has ALREADY REPORTED the groundwork for a Russian collusion narrative, which will be very useful to the more established Democrat candidates should Tulsi gain any more ground before the primaries.
She has made her position on the Russian collusion accusations clear, yet again taking an unpopular opinion amongst her peers:
Mueller reported Trump did not collude with Russia to influence our elections. Now we must put aside partisan interests, move forward, and work to unite our country to deal with the serious challenges we face. pic.twitter.com/xTkHkyrAxp
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) March 28, 2019
Considering what we all witnessed in 2016, with the intense rejection of Bernie Sanders within the Democratic Party, would any of us be surprised if that same party chose to assassinate the character of their most promising candidate in 2020? It takes very little extrapolation to assume that another Russian narrative may be on its way to take Tulsi down early.
Though CNN is frequently the friend and ally of Democrat nominees, Tulsi is at work burning bridges with the organization’s “talking heads,” which she sees as a possible catalyst of war.
TV talking heads love trying to goad Trump into going to war w/ Russia. Here’s just one example: @FareedZakaria is trying to get Trump to prove he's not guilty of appeasement by going to war with Russia over Venezuela. pic.twitter.com/gMFBlEzvBD
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) April 3, 2019
Dr. Ron Paul, who is among the most influential figures within the libertarian collective of the ‘Liberty Movement,’ is also among the libertarians whom Tulsi has captured the attention of. Though noting his differences of opinion in economic matters, the legendary libertarian Republican and former Representative from Texas called Tulsi Gabbard “the most intelligent” of the current Democratic candidates, and stated “If we had to pick one of them to be our president, I think she would be giving us the best chance for bringing about peace.”
Over a decade ago, Tulsi Gabbard expressed that her personal views matched those that she believe properly represented the people of her state – that of traditional marriage in need of no reform. This is officially a stance against gay marriage. This does not appear to be her opinion any longer. But this has been, and will continue to be, used against her. The past can be deadly to the reputations of those who mess with the status quo, with every gaffe being noted carefully.
Libertarians can relate. Tulsi Gabbard often refers to foreign intervention as “regime change,” a term used frequently by 2012 & 2016 Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson. Johnson received very little media attention too, except when the coverage could afford to be negative. Not many people can recall Johnson’s speeches or his policies, but we can all remember him asking what “Aleppo” meant.
Gabbard is embarking on a journey that will see her treated similarly: as a fringe candidate, too departed from the mainstream to be salvageable, where incapability to conform is portrayed as the incapability to think clearly or be relevant.
The election of Donald Trump saw many otherwise staunch libertarians jump ship from both Libertarian Party politics and from the fringes where they had resided, having decided to chalk up Trump’s election as the closest thing to winning that they would ever see. For many of them, the increasing costs of living, the support for terrorist regimes, and the bloated budgets have not led to any change in mind. And should Tulsi Gabbard see herself become President of the United States in 2020 we may see this again, with libertarians defecting to the newly cooled waters of Democrat politics where they feel a new sense of representation. But this would not be a positive thing. Libertarians need to represent themselves, and looking to the closest adjacent neighbor to be a proxy representative does nothing good for the cause.
But Tulsi Gabbard is indeed something unique, and the interest she has garnered from libertarians and non-libertarians alike has been hard-earned and well-deserved. Tulsi is an evangelist of the anti-interventionist ethos, preaching to a world of heathenish warhawks that, believe it or not, she actually relates to. Despite her constant talk against the USA’s foreign intervention, she considers herself tough on terrorism and even described herself as “hawkish.” It may be possible that she is too hard on herself, or perhaps her years of anti-interventionist criticism have been the elaborare political suicide of a self-driven woman who prefers life in the National Guard to life in Washington DC.
Whatever the case, there is only one of her. The floor is now hers.